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SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence platform

Understanding the SAP BusinessObjects SDKs: Part 1 – Managed BI for Application Developers

Terry Penner, BI Solutions, SAP
February 2011

Introduction

Managed BI represents decision-support functionality – such as reporting, dashboards, and analysis – that is provided from a centrally managed platform for multiple business users.
IT professionals and application developers need managed BI services to solve information delivery requirements to multiple individuals. The needs often go beyond simply attaching reports and dashboards to Web pages or integrating them as standalone client-side application functionality.
Group access to application data and information usually means enabling centralized:
  • Sharing – Allowing multiple users to access and view instances of reports, dashboards, or exploration documents.
  • Scheduling – Enabling queries to run during off hours or to be coordinated with business processes.
  • Administration – via a single central console so that an administrator can easily keep the systems running smoothly.
  • Security and governance -- Providing personalized, role-based information access.

Overview

The Managed APIs (also known as the BI Platform APIs) provide access to the content and runtime environment of your SAP Business Intelligence solution
deployment. Developers often need to integrate with other products and services when developing and deploying business applications.  The Managed APIs are designed to help you to fit your solution into the rest of your business environment.
The four main managed API areas are content viewing, content sharing, content integration, and administration and monitoring.
  • OpenDocument processes incoming URL requests for documents and any other viewable object type in your managed environment, and delivers the correct document to the end user in the appropriate viewer.  It is the simplest way to integrate a custom report viewing experience into your portal application.  With a single click, your business users can view their formatted business analytics without navigating any folder hierarchy.
  • BI Launchpad provides a default viewing and sharing environment for all your hosted BI content.
  • The Platform APIs for Content Integration allow you to integrate your content into your SharePoint or Java-based portal environment.
  • The Platform APIs for Administration and Monitoring help you write automated tools to manage your environment.
  1. Content Viewing
OpenDocument is a popular API used to directly link to content stored within BusinessObjects Enterprise using URLs.  Your end users can view reports with a single click, instead of needing to navigate through a portal.  Your users don’t need to use InfoView, or BI LaunchPad as it’s known in 4.0
This API enables you to create links to connect content, or to help users open specific content stored in the repository with a single click. URLs you create can specify parameters and export formats, so your application can pre-filter report content before your business user sees it.
Figure 1: OpenDocument Screenshots
Related to OpenDocument API is the upcoming Report-to-Report Linking API, which allows you to link reports via URL calls. A planned innovation for Crystal Reports and Dashboards is to support the SAP Report-to-Report Interface.  For those not familiar with SAP R/3, the Report-to-Report Interface is a feature
that enables you to call other queries, reports, or transactions from a query or report in any SAP R/3 – based system to another R/3 – based system.

Besides OpenDocument and Report-to-Report Linking, the BI Platform and some of the clients like Crystal Reports and Web Intelligence provide embeddable viewers that allow for basic report viewing in a custom application.

Also new in 4.0 is improved BusinessObjects Explorer support for OpenDocument, so you can capture your current view in a URL link, and share it out, or come back to it later with a single click.

2.    Content Sharing

One of the benefits of the BI Platform is that it hosts all of your content within a centralized repository that is accessible via a portal or custom application. 

Managed BI enables you to extend your report and dashboard content throughout your business in multiple ways:

    • Sharing through a BI portal known as BI Launch Pad, which is shipped with every copy of SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise, SAP BusinessObjects Edge, and Crystal Server Content can be integrated into Microsoft SharePoint 2010 or Office as live links
    • Reports and dashboards can be shared via e-mail, file share, or Web server in popular export formats
    • Subscription-based alerts allow users to be notified when data in a report crosses a specific threshold.
    • Content can be delivered to most mobile devices, so your content can go with you
    • Custom branding and theming for BI Launchpad is a key planned innovation for an upcoming release.

3.    Content Integration

Nearly all BI solutions need the ability to schedule content for delivery at off-peak times or to align information delivery with business processes.   Key BI Platform capabilities include:

  • Report Scheduling
  • BI Launch Pad Customization
  • SharePoint Integration
  • Portal Integration

     

A typical report scheduling scenario is when an organization requires territory managers to review lost sales deals and returns from the previous week for better visibility into sales performance by product.   Using the provided User Interface, SDK code, or one of the solutions written by our partners, it is
possible to set up a recurring schedule. For example, a report can be sent out to the territory managers every Monday at 6:00 a.m., so that they have it when
they login in the morning.

Some customers choose to use a single report for this process rather than creating multiple reports for each territory or for each manager, especially if there are multiple managers for a territory.  SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise provides publishing functionality that allows for multi-pass report bursting, which allows one report for potentially thousands of recipients. 

Most customers want to use the scheduling and publishing functionality as a means to off-load recurring processing of content or to provide a constantly updated repository of reports that an application can simply embed with updated data.  From an SDK perspective, we provide custom processing options, allowing you to embed your compiled Java code into a running publishing job, so you can pre-process a report or copy it out to multiple file locations programmatically.  This is part of the 3.1 solution, and continues in the 4.0 release.

4.    Administration and Monitoring

The BI Platform provides six main feature areas focused on backend administration

  • Platform Search
  • Authentication
  • Security
  • Alerting
  • Auditing
  • Monitoring

   

With managed BI, you can integrate your authentication with an existing Active Directory or LDAP installation.  The security features allow you to manage
which objects that users and groups can access.

Managed BI also provides many administrative features beyond content storage and security. The monitoring capabilities of the server allow for real-time supervision of the entire deployment or of specific services to ensure that things are running smoothly. 

Auditing is typically used to manage risk, and to monitor the capacity of your system. And using the platform search API, you can search for BI content stored in the BI Platform from Microsoft SharePoint or another custom application.

The new Open Search API allows you to launch a search across federated BusinessObjects deployments from your custom application, and get back objects that meet specific criteria.

As before, you can integrate your authentication with an existing Active Directory or LDAP installation.  The security features allow you to manage
which objects that users and groups can access.

Product Requirements

The BI Platform APIs are included with SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise, SAP BusinessObjects Edge, and Crystal Server.  They are not part of the standalone SAP Crystal Reports, or the standalone SAP Crystal Dashboard Design solutions.

SAP Crystal Server (formerly known as SAP Crystal Reports Server) shares the platform APIs with SAP Edge and SAP BusinessObjects BI, so most sample code and API documentation you see will work on any one of the three solutions.  The exceptions are code samples interacting with content types or servers not supported in Crystal Server, such as SAP BusinessObjects Analysis, edition for OLAP.  The BI Platform API requires version 4.x or 3.x of the BI Platform.

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